SKEEM Saam’s father and son duo, Charles Maja and Thabo Mkhabela, are as tight as a knit. The father-son relationship goes beyond what we see on our TV screens. Leading two different lives and having different life experiences has helped the two actors bond.
Thabo, who plays Leshole, is 26 years old and his first TV role was on SABC1’s Skeem Saam. On the other hand, Charles (62), who plays Big Boy, has decades of experience in the entertainment industry. Charles, who is a born performer, never had formal training and his acting career dates back to 1984, while Thabo has a degree in performing arts. After matric, he wanted to study law but found an opening in the arts faculty. Unlike Thabo, Charles enjoys the quiet rural life he shares with his wife and three children. The actor goes back and forth moving between Gauteng and Limpopo. If he’s able to wrap up shoots in the afternoon, he drives back to Limpopo the same day and if not – he would rather leave early in the morning for his hometown. “I can’t spend a day doing nothing in Joburg. The only time I will sleep there is if I finish work late. I don’t drive late because of hijackings,” he explains. Despite all the barriers that come to play in their two worlds, the duo has a beautiful relationship and often goes on holidays together. Their characters bring them closer each day and it also helps that Charles has a son Thabo’s age. The father of three is surprised by the bond he shares with his younger co-star. Thabo believes working closely strengthens their relationship. He says he sees Charles as a father and a mentor, and learns a lot from him. “We have developed a great bond over the years. I’m grateful for the wisdom he brings. He always corrects my mistakes and I know it’s from a good place,” Thabo says.
THE GIVE AND TAKE RELATIONSHIP
Thabo is originally from Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga. He is fluent in Xitsonga and isiSwati. To perfectly play Leshole, he often needs translations and clarifications which he gets from his on-screen father. As much as Thabo learns a lot from his on-screen father, Charles also feeds off him too. Charles adds that they both learn from each other. “Thabo has a qualification in performing arts and he teaches me modern acting techniques. I get to advance my knowledge and align it with what is new,” Charles explains. Charles makes Big Boy look believable. He says he spends a lot of time perfecting the character and sometimes sees the character coming to play when he’s at home. The down-to-earth father is nothing like his character, doesn’t drink and values his family’s input, including that of his children. He says playing the character gives him a greater challenge and platform to address social ills. The actor doesn’t see himself as a celebrity.